Same Diff: Following the Eclipse Trackers

How news orgs helped audiences follow a shadow across their towns and across the continent

Eclipse cracker. (Dawn Endico)

If you didn’t notice the deluge of news coverage, much of the US just experienced a solar eclipse. The majority of coverage was in words—per usual with the gaping maw of reader interest—but some publications were a little more ambitious, publishing custom-designed and interactive news items to help readers prepare for and understand the rare astrological phenomenon.

The Washington Post

Without a doubt the WaPo went the biggest with its special eclipse coverage, publishing two massive pieces.

In Your Lifetime”


The first chronicled every eclipse of the prior and future 100 years: 200 years of eclipses on one page. (One of its creators, Denise Lu, also wrote a project teardown for Source. —eds.) It goes deep on answering the question on many people’s minds: “why is this eclipse so special” and then effortlessly transitions to answering geographic questions about the eclipse. There are 13 different maps in this thing. Questions this piece answers well are:

  • Why is this eclipse so special?

  • How many eclipses could I see in my life?

  • What will the eclipse look like in my town?

  • How does an eclipse occur?

  • Where are places that will have multiple eclipses in the near future?

  • Where are places that have had few eclipses?

  • Where are the places that have had many eclipses?

  • What are the typical paths of eclipses across the US?

The Path”


The second effort by the Washington Post is a long-scrolling overhead map that follows the path of the eclipse totality. It is as fun as it is beautiful, despite being less informationally dense than its other piece. As you scroll through the story, you’re transported across the U.S. with a bird’s-eye view over the moon’s shadow. Various points of interest are highlighted and described along the way.

  • What areas will experience the eclipse?

  • What are some of the events that are being held to celebrate the eclipse?

  • How does the shape of the moon’s shadow change over the course of the day?

The Los Angeles Times


The LA Times was way out in front with its coverage, publishing a piece on May 12, and it is a great prologue to the eclipse. It starts with an interactive map that lets readers determine how far they are from the path of totality and coarsely determine how much of an eclipse they’ll see. It then transitions into a countdown clock, and other diagrams about the eclipse. It answers the following questions well:

  • What will the eclipse look like in Los Angeles?

  • How much of an eclipse will various areas see?

  • How does an eclipse occur?

  • How long until the eclipse starts?

  • How can I observe the eclipse safely?

  • How far is the total eclipse from me?



Vox took a personalized approach, allowing its readers to pick their location and get a localized graphic. When it loads the experience, it helpfully attempts to determine the reader’s location automatically, and then shows a simulation of what the eclipse will look like there. Next it provides a map showing how far you’d need to travel to get from your location to a total eclipse. It answers these questions well:

  • What will the eclipse look like for me?

  • What will the eclipse look like somewhere else?

  • When will the eclipse peak for me/somewhere else?

  • When will the eclipse start for me/somewhere else?

  • When will the eclipse end for me/somewhere else?

  • How much of the sun will be blocked for me/somewhere else?

  • How far am I/someone else from a total eclipse?



It’s a no-frills execution but with an added angle none of the others covered: clouds. The folks at NJ.com used Carto to make a map showing not only the eclipse path, but also the current likelihood of cloud cover over the entire United States. The map includes indications of how much of the sun will be covered in various places, but like the LA Times, it’s a coarse indication. They are updating the cloud forecast periodically. It answers these questions well:

  • Where will there be a total eclipse?

  • How much of an eclipse will various areas see?

  • On the day of the eclipse, where might there be clouds, and where might the sky be clear?

USA Today


Even simpler than NJ.com is USA Today’s execution of an interactive map with only the path of totality. I has no indications of partial eclipse areas or anything else. But it does have search functionality, which is useful. Questions that are answered well:

  • Where will there be a total eclipse?

  • Will I/somewhere see a total eclipse?



Time has a perfectly reasonable execution, with an appearance that belies the complexity described in its methodology. Functionally it appears to do the same thing as Vox’s: enter a zip code and see a simulation of the eclipse with times noted for beginning, peak, and end. In contrast to Vox, Time gave a lengthy explanation of its methods, describing NASA software and adjustments for the speed of light, but the result is something visually simple, which is a bit of a disappointment. Let me see the work you did! That being said, it’s nearly as successful as Vox’s in delivering information. It answers most of the same questions:

  • What will the eclipse look like for me?

  • What will the eclipse look like somewhere else?

  • When will the eclipse peak for me/somewhere else?

  • When will the eclipse start for me/somewhere else?

  • When will the eclipse end for me/somewhere else?



Does the “Great American Eclipse” include all of North America? CBC seems to think so and made a graphic to simulate eclipse viewing in 12 Canadian cities. It shows what an eclipse will look like in those places but does so in a way that no other piece did. To watch the eclipse happen, you drag the moon’s shadow across the continent. It’s a delightful interaction despite it limiting the eclipse simulation to a time period after the eclipse’s start and before the eclipse’s end.

  • What will the eclipse look like in various Canadian cities?

  • When will the eclipse peak in various Canadian cities?

  • Where will there be a total eclipse?

  • How much of an eclipse will various areas see?

Publication chronology

LA Times: May 12

Washington Post, “Lifetime”: July 10

Vox: July 25

Washington Post, “Path”: July 28

USA Today: Aug. 4

Time: Aug. 7

CBC: Aug. 10

NJ.com: Aug. 17


LA Times: Jon Schleuss/Lorena Iñiguez Elebee, Len De Groot

Washington Post, “Path”: Laris Karklis, Tim Meko, Armand Emamdjomeh, Denise Lu, Bonnie Berkowitz

Washington Post,”Lifetime”: Denise Lu/Armand Emamdjomeh

Vox: Casey Miller, Ryan Mark, Brian Resnick

NJ.com: Stephen Stirling

CBC: Richard Grasley, Elizabeth Melito, William Wolfe-Wylie, Laura Wright, Laura Wright

USA Today: Doyle Rice

Time: Chris WIlson


  • David Yanofsky

    David is a reporter for Quartz. He has exposed law breakers by tracking Instagram posts, expanded the capability of his fellow reporters by developing newsroom tools, and is currently suing the Department of Commerce to gain access to some of its data.


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